Roof-dwelling bees at the Bastille Cafe got ornery last summer.
Bees will soon be guests of The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, which plans to install five honeybee hives on its rooftop next week.
According to Ballard Bee Company's founder Corky Luster, an urban apiarian who's serving as a project consultant, the hotel's restaurant should be drizzling its own honey on cheese plates "in a year's time."
Luster praises The Georgian's executive chef Gavin Stephenson for pursuing downtown's first rooftop hive program.
"He wants to source as local as he can," Luster says. "For these busy chefs to make an extra effort, it's great."
The Fairmont already operates rooftop hives at its hotels in San Francisco, Dallas, Toronto, and Vancouver, among other locations worldwide. Calls to The Fairmont Olympic concerning the bee program were not returned, although a staffer explained the hotel's publicist position is currently vacant.
It's impossible to forecast how much honey the Fairmont bees will produce: While a healthy hive is typically good for a 30-40 pound yield, Luster has watched over hives that produce twice as much honey. The honey's flavor is similarly unpredictable: Bees can travel up to six miles from their home hives, a range that includes an array of different nectars.
When Luster stood on The Fairmont's roof, he imagined bees swooping into Freeway Park to feed. But he concedes the bees will go wherever they please, which is why inner-city honey--known as miel béton, or "concrete honey", in French--is prized for its complexity and odd mix of nectars.
Luster has previously installed hives for Bastille Café and Kathy Casey Food Studios. Although the two venues are located on the same Ballard block, the honeys their neighboring hives produced were radically different. Bastille's honey was light, while Casey's honey was dark.
Luster contends urban honey is far more reflective of place than the meats and vegetables carted into local farmers markets. While a few of those items originate within Seattle proper, many of them are grown beyond city limits. "When people come to the city, we talk about seafood and wine," Luster says. "But 97 percent of that isn't produced in the city. This honey is truly produced here."